Seafood industry: Indian west coast sees good tuna arrival

KOCHI: At a time when the seafood industry is facing a crisis with sluggish markets and declining wild catches, tuna arrival has come as a windfall.

There has been a drop in fish landings in the west coast in general this year. But tuna, which is highly valued for sashimi delicacy in Japan, seems to have bucked the trend.
 However, the prices have not been encouraging as the major buyers like Europe and US are still in economic distress. Two years ago, a decline in tuna catches in the Southeast Asian coast and in Japan due to tsunami led to a jump in orders for Indian tuna.

Despite all the odds, India has been able export more quantity this year because of better catch. This year, tuna catches have not improved much in other countries.

Demand has also been slack due to the recession. "The prices for sashimi grade tuna have fallen from $15-16 per kg to $10-11 while canning grade tuna fetches $3-3.5 per kg," said Dominic Sebastian, chief executive of Moon Fisheries, a leading tuna exporter.

In 2011-12, tuna exports from India reached Rs 192 crore, recording a 41% rise over the previous year. This year from April to January, the exports have touched Rs 185 crore, according to a senior official of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).

"We will certainly exceed last year's figures going by the trend," the official said. Higher earnings are from the increase in quantity as unit value has declined. Tuna from the west coast is caught mostly using net and goes mostly for canning, which commands lower price. The bigger variety, caught using hook and line, finds use in sashimi, which consists of sliced raw fish.

"Our tuna catches will be around 2,000 tonne to 3,000 tonne - most of which will be of canning grade," said Sebastian. The catches in the east coast comprise the premium variety, caught using hook and line. But the landings have not been good this year.

"Unlike previous year, there is a plenty of stock in countries like Thailand, which has diverted some demand from India," said V George Joseph, managing partner of Star Fish Exports.

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